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What is a Task Force?

Task forces, such as naval groups, are usually formed to accomplish specific missions.
A police task force may be given special equipment or powers.
Local law enforcement includes task forces assigned to deal with drug activity.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2014
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A task force is a group of people who are temporarily assigned to work together to achieve a very specific and clearly defined objective. For example, a drug task force works independently of a police force to address issues relating to the manufacture, sale, and use of illegal drugs. Although the concept is military in origin, today they are often found beyond the boundaries of the military, appearing in the business world, law enforcement, and charitable organizations.

Several things set a task force aside from other working groups. The first is typically a sense of autonomy; it is commanded by someone high-ranking enough that he or she does not need to constantly consult superiors to make decisions. This makes a task force extremely mobile, flexible, and effective, allowing the members to use their abilities in very efficient ways. It also typically contains a broad cross-section of people, integrating an assortment of skills into a single unit.

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In some instances, the members of a task force may be taken from entirely within a service, business, or organization. For example, early Naval task forces used people from various units who could work together efficiently and effectively on a project. However, the group isn't restricted to a single entity; it is also possible to see a joint task force, which integrates people from multiple organizations. These are especially common in law enforcement; in the example of a drug task force above, the group might include federal narcotics agents, local police, and representatives from agencies like the parks department or department of public health.

When a task force is formed, its goals are clearly spelled out, and the commander typically indicates the kind of staffing and funding which would be needed. When the desired goal is achieved, the group is broken up again, with the members returning to their normal positions.

While most task forces focus on short-term goals like developing new technology or solving a specific problem, they can also take on more challenging long-term issues, like the proliferation of drugs, or smuggling. In some instances, these task forces ultimately evolve into regular units, reflecting the fact that their tasks will never truly be done, although they might make tremendous strides in the right direction.

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Discuss this Article

anon268936
Post 6

Why do police like achieving aims?

roopamsharma
Post 5

The article was really helpful to me, thanks.

can you please tell me what are the advantages and disadvantages of task forces used in organizational diagnosis, with examples?

widget2010
Post 4

@accordion, there are also task forces for things like education or poverty in areas, which focus on doing whatever they can to change the way things are organized, get food to the hungry, or otherwise raise money and resources to improve schools, create jobs, or otherwise provide for the needy in communities or countries.

accordion
Post 3

Generally, modern task forces differ from police or military forces in that they avoid the more violent parts of solving a problem, instead dealing with more social or economic problems. A drug task force, for example, would spend less time trying to actually catch drug dealers and users, and more trying to find the underlying problems which might cause a specific community or other group to have a high level of drug use.

anon20565
Post 2

Why are police officers called cops?

Moderator's reply: Check out our article, "Why are Police Officers Called Cops?", for the answer to that question.

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